Views on the Best Life

1 January 2017

According to Epicurus, by understanding the physical causes of strange natural occurrences (like eclipses, earthquakes, tsunamis etc), we can overcome fears that many believe the gods send. One way to achieve happiness is to eliminate fear of the unknown, and fear of these natural occurrences. Physics is an area of science that works to explain the cause of these things, and the key to living a happier life relies on a better understanding of this science, as well as other areas such as meteorology. How can we be happy if we constantly worry about things we have no control over?

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Epicurus states this in his principal doctrine: “It is not possible for a man to banish all fear of the essential questions of life unless he understands the nature of the universe, and unless he banishes all consideration that the fables told about the universe could be true. Therefore a man cannot enjoy full happiness, untroubled by turmoil, unless he acts to gain knowledge of the nature of things. ” (Epicurus 12)Knowing why Epicurus put so much emphasis on sensory knowledge is important to understand if we want to achieve a happier life, and a life of pleasure.

The concept of knowledge not only depends on life experience but also on truths of life experience, in other words our senses must be proven to be true. Understanding physical pain through an examination of the way in which nature works helps us to understand that the majority of our suffering is unnecessary and self-created. Intense physical pain is typically short lived, while a long-term pain is typically mild. Prolonged periods of intense pain are rare for most of us.

Epicurus thought that a detailed understanding of the physical world would help to improve our lives as well as understanding the causes and effects of pain and suffering. Another area of focus is his concept of not fearing death. Scientific studies help to remove the fear of death by teaching that the mind and spirit are material and mortal, so they cannot live on after death. In order to understand what happens when one dies, we must understand the scientific aspect that the world consists of nothing more than the atoms of the void; invisible, indestructible pieces of ‘stuff’.

Everything in the world is composed of them. There is such a thing as a human soul, but it is a thing that is composed of very fine atoms that are also the roots of sensation. Death is the dissolution of the soul, and is capable of becoming decomposed. In contrast to Epicurus’ views that stress sensory knowledge in achieving a life of pleasure, Plato thought that knowledge gained from the senses is not as important as knowledge gained through philosophical reasoning.

The allegory of the cave shows a comparison between people who see shadows and mistake them for the truth, and those who really do see the truth. To summarize the main theme of the Allegory of the Cave, We are deceived by our senses. Because we trust these senses, we are like prisoners in a cave, mistaking the shadows on the wall for reality. Additionally, Socrates felt that an important thing for us to inquire into in order to pursue the best life is knowledge. He spent most of his life searching for the truths that make up nowledge, and he believed that the senses were an obstacle in ones search for knowledge. Epicurus believed that relying on the senses were pivotal in achieving happiness, while Socrates believed that a good soul was pivotal in achieving happiness. Socrates also believed that the body was imperfect, while the soul is perfect in relation to the real world. Epicurus and Plato also had opposing approaches to knowledge. Epicurus favored materialism, which is the view that everything is matter in motion, and knowledge depends on physical processes and sensation, not just reason.

Epicurus also believed we obtained knowledge only through observation of the senses, and that sensations corresponded to an existing thing, which must be tested against the knowledge of the world. He also did not believe life existed after death, and unlike Plato’s view, we do not possess any knowledge prior to birth. Plato favored idealism, which states that reality is mental, and immaterial, and specifically relates to the mind, and knowledge could not be obtained by only relying on our senses. Plato elieved that we learn in this life by remembering knowledge that we learned in a previous life, and that the soul already has all knowledge, and we also learn by remembering what the soul already knows. What is the possibility of combining these two approaches? Is it possible to bring them together in order to achieve the best life? Using Socrates views in The Allegory of the Cave, knowledge is knowing what you do not know, not what you know, and Epicurus’ view that sensory knowledge is the fundamental basis of all knowledge, I do believe both approaches can be combined to achieve the best possible life.

I believe that there is continuity among our mind, body, and the environment, and we can learn more by encompassing all three of these entities. By relying strictly on our senses I don’t think we would gain the knowledge necessary to survive in the modern world. But combining materialism and idealism would allow us to live the best life possible. Works Cited Epicurus. The “Principle Doctrines”; http://www. epicurus. net/en/principal. html

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